10. July 2010 – 11:45 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)
We are all discussing the potential of the internet for democracy everyday. But sometimes it is nice to here the arguments of other people on this issue. Fora.tv has posted a very good debate on on the question “Does the internet threaten democracy?” with Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), Andrew Keen (author of “The Cult of the Amateur”), Farhad Manjoo (author of “True Enough”) and Micah L. Sifry (Editor of the “Personal Democracy Forum”). All four stay in their tracks more or less (Yes Andrew Keen is as provocative as always). In the end it is more a discussion of media as a whole and less about the internet in particular. But it is very interesting none the less.
Today humanity is facing an enormous multi-crisis dilemma – creating an ever-growing complexity of interrelated local, regional and global problem-patterns. Political decision-makers have a hard job finding appropriate solutions and depend more and more on scientific advice . Leading advisers Martin Lees (Secretary General of the Club of Rome) and Karl-Henrik Robèrt (Founder of the Natural Step) have recently pointed out (in a personal conversation), that this incapability to come up with appropriate solutions has got systemic roots. Our institutions are built to cope with single issues within limited regional scopes, thus they are not apt to deal with such multi-crises-dilemma. Therefore, the generation and collection of information, its conversion into institutional knowledge and its use in decision-making processes have been recognized as crucial tasks .
From this point of view, our current multi-crisis-dilemma can be understood as a general crisis of today´s democracies, basically caused by its over-complexity and the lack of appropriate knowledge management systems based on the integration of collective knowledge.
It is now widely accepted, that only multi-stakeholder-inclusion can support our institutions with the necessary knowledge to face our challenges at stake. This requires a more networked approach of governance and a knowledge management based on public spaces for policy deliberation , .
But although the resulting frustration in the European population is manifested in decreasing voter turnouts on the one hand, and the use of ICT for eCampaigning and proactive action planning increases on the other hand, most eParticipation projects show quite a low citizen participation . To understand this paradox it would be important to have a closer look at the technical tools and socio-political concepts being used in today’s eParticipation.
 Hisschemöller, Matthias: Participation as Knowledge Production and the Limits of Democracy; In: Maasen, S. & Weingart, P. 2005: Democratization of Expertise?: Exploring novel Forms of Scientific Advice in Political Decision-Making, Dordrecht, NL
 OECD 2003: The learning government: Introduction and draft results of the survey of knowledge management practice in Ministries, 27th session of Public Management Committee, 3-4th
 Blumler, J.G., Coleman, S. 2001: Realizing Democracy Online: A civic commons in Cyberspace, IPPR/Citizens Online Research Publications, No 2, Mar 2001
 Centeno, van Bavel, Burgelman 2005: A Prospective View of e-Government in the European Union, Electronic Journal of e-Government, Vol. 3, Issue 2, 59-66
 Millard, J.2009: eParticipation, European Journal of ePractice, No. 7, March 2009
This article is an extract from our paper for this years EDem conference in Krems.The whole paper will be publishedby the Austrian Computer Society under the titel „BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN BOTTOM-UP AND TOP-DOWN E-PARTICIPATION APPROACHES - E-PARTICIPATION AS ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP”
The EDem conference series is jointly organised by the Danube University Krems and the University of Economics and Business Administration, Vienna.
As we now have been PEP-NET member for about two months, we now finally would like to introduce echo to the ones who may not knows us yet – better late than never
Motivation and image
Today humanity is facing some serious environmental, economic and humanitarian challenges never seen before. However, satisfactory solutions are not in sight. The lack of transparency in political decision making provokes a growing sense of powerlessness and political resignation among the population and weakens people’s faith in democracy. Calls for transparency and more participation are growing louder.
The current crises can thus be understood as a general crisis of democracy.
New ways have to be found, empowering people to develop constructive solutions to effectively tackle our “glocal” challenges. This is why echo has been founded: As a platform for sustainable change and active citizen participation echo enables a new form of non-partisan participatory democracy on local, regional and global level. With echo the first web-application is being developed to enable collective intelligence through democratic discourse even with a virtually unlimited number of participants.
echo offers a quick overview of interesting discussions, gives people an opportunity to voice their opinions in a deliberative discourse and to jointly find the right solutions. On echo, people can connect with allies, experts and decision makers and together turn their decision into reality.
echo consists of three clearly separated functional areas, which at the same time are tightly interwoven:
Discuss, Connect, Act!
Discuss is the core area, which contains most unique features and enables collective intelligence to emerge. The discussions taking place in the discussion area offer a differentiated overview of the different statements edited and supported by certain regions or societal groups.
Every statement is edited through a self organized democratic process (without the need of moderators or admins). Thanks to the new semantic cross-language search engine, users can find easily a comprehensive selection of relevant information. With only minimal effort thousands of users can contribute to the dynamic evolution of sound statements.
Connect offers users an easy possibility to organizes their contacts, add interesting experts and opinion leaders their personal network and to connect people with specific competences relevant to a certain subject. To enhance usability and foster a viral growth there will be interfaces connecting several external social networks like twitter and facebook.
Act! motivates the participants of discussions to proactively launch actions and projects, to jointly turn their ideas and visions into reality, and thus, make change visible in every day life. To do so, echo offers a virtual work space equipped with the necessary tools and information to efficiently plan and accomplish different kinds of actions and projects and found eco-socially sustainable businesses.
As most actions and projects will need funding, echo is based on powerful business models. “Powerful“ does not merely mean working cost-covering. It also means helping users to provide their actions with the necessary funds. This enables people to accomplish their goals and lets their virtual engagement influence our real world in a positive way, which is the key to motivate ever more people to participate on echo. Thus, the comprehensive concept of echo has true potential to free people from their sense of powerlessness, offer them a way of successful self-determination and help them restore their faith in democracy.
In order to overcome the limitations of individual platforms, echo employs a distributed approach and makes its functionality available throughout the whole Internet. Accordingly, relevant discussions and actions from echo can be displayed and edited on any web page and blog. In this way, echo complements the functionality of other platforms and creates true synergies, instead of hamstringing competition.
Shared User- and Opinion Base
Through cooperation with echo, partner platforms connect their communities with each other. This way, their different user groups are joint together in a single cross-platform community. The users can now connect throughout all platforms, discuss and jointly launch actions and projects.
Moreover, echo addresses to users on a larger scale exceeding such groups from existing platforms through an extended network with further organizations. This in turn, multiplies the range and influence of each single partner platform. Projects and campaigns profit from the viral dissemination and its huge and highly motivated community.
Discussions on issues, which are relevant to the different partner platforms can be initiated on any other partner platform, thus, enriching discussions and making them more interesting and alive. This way a much broader opinion base is formed, as possibly could emerge on any single platform. New impulses and issues flow back and forth, enriching discussions and rising the attractiveness of all partner platforms.
This thematic diversity – covering different thematic fields and ranging broadly and deeply into society – rises virality enormously. The synergetic effects allow for a common development of content throughout different communities, which offers interesting information to virtually every Internet user. Thus, the influence of the proposals elaborated in this distributed system will boost its influence on society enormously.
The debate aim to answer an array of questions relevant to democracy and surrounding the new European Citizens’ Initiative. The event will be hosted by Richard MEDI?, European Media and Communications Expert (former AER Spokesman).
The main speakers include: Sebastian KURPAS, a representative from the European Commission and Johannes W. PICHLER, Professor for European Law at the University of Graz and Director of the Austrian Institute for European Law and Politics in Salzburg (AT).
The initiative is part of the “AER Communications Atelier” under the new European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) the Steiermark Office Brussels will be hosted by the AER (Assembly of European Regions). It is also the first time the “AER Communications Atelier” gives interested parties the opportunity to follow the discussion as a live-stream and to participate actively in the discussion on https://europa.steiermark.at/stream
Last week many popular news sites (CNN, BBC, techradar etc.) reporting the unexpected death of pop legend Michael Jackson caused a world-wide slow down of the Internet which caused many popular engagement channels such as Twitter to crash!
His death generated the most tweets per second on Twitter since Barack Obama was elected president. In fact many of my friends in remote locations at festivals such as Glastonbury (UK) learned of the shocking news through SMS and Twitter on their mobiles, Blackberry’s and iPhones as cyberspace began to go into frenzy.
This event raised many fundamental issues about the capacity of the internet that is critical to participation and democracy, as well as highlighting the global difference in how countries trust official and unofficial sources of information
For example, the “Michael Jackson outage” on the net (caused by the West accessing many ‘official’ sources of trusted information) resulted in many users who were finding the tool critical for organising protest in Iran unable to access their usual sources of ‘unofficial’ information, thereby effectively delaying demonstrations.
Ironically, despite the mainly unsuccessful efforts of the Iranian regime to shut down participation in the form of protests by denying citizens access to technology, it was actually the West who temporarily (albeit unintentionally) succeeded in achieving this feat through its overuse.
A clash of hunger for knowledge from official sources vs. the need to organize knowledge against official sources does raise interesting contrasts and demonstrates how far new media has the ability to focus our thoughts and actions in a modern world.
According to the recently published Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions “Towards an accessible information society”(1.12.2008)eAccessibility and Web accessibility in particular have emerged as a high societal priority due to the growing importance of the Internet and the explosive growth in online information and interactive services, namely online banking, shopping, government and public services, and electronic communication with distant relatives and friends.
ICT-enabled government, participation and democracy can contribute to the objectives of inclusion in a variety of ways: by providing new ICT-enabled channels for delivering government services and making these services more accessible for people with special needs (eServices eAccessibility); making the democratic p process and governmental decision making more transparent, consultative and participatory through online information provision in all relevant languages and formats, deliberative initiatives and empowerment of advocacy groups that serve at-risk groups (eEngagement), and, by harnessing the same tools in a targeted fashion to make inclusion policies and initiatives themselves more transparent, participatory and accountable and by stepping up the provision of content relevant to groups at risk of exclusion.
Participation within an inclusive governance model is possible only if political, economic, technological and social barriers are removed and access to these opportunities is equitably distributed. Easy access to (ICT) is a prerequisite for participation. Facilitating this access entails, inter alia, removing barriers, making ICT tools easier for everyone to use, and encouraging people to use them by raising awareness of their economic and social benefits.
Progress in this area remains fragmented and slow, despite such targets and many actions involving public authorities, industry and civil society. Accessibility of public websites remains stuck at 5%. Only 10% of people aged over 64 are Internet users while the average in Europe is 47%. Without further intervention, the gap will only be halved in 2015 instead of 2010. The latest assessments conducted for the Commission show that accessibility of websites, communication terminals, TV sets and other ICT remains problematic, with lower-educated, economically inactive and elderly people at the greatest risk of being left behind.
Contributions may be in the form of scientific papers (distinguishing between completed research and ongoing research), project presentations, and workshops. Each format encourages scientific rigor and discussions of the state-of-the-art, innovative research in progress, studies of practical eGovernment/eGovernance, eParticipation and eDemocracy projects, as well as system implementations.
Accepted papers will be published in Springer’s Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) Ongoing research and project papers will be published in the Trauner (Linz, AT) proceedings.
Important dates include:
Submission of papers: 28 February 2009
Submission of workshop/panel proposals: 15 April 2009
Submission of PhD projects: 15 April 2009
Notification of acceptance for papers: 15 April 2009
Notification of workshops/panels/PhD projects: 15 May 2009
14. November 2008 – 17:17 by Danish Technological Institute
Many of you may already know the European Journal of ePractice (EjeP), but do you know that the next special edition is devoted entirely to eParticipation!
The 6th issue of the Journal provides a good chance to write articles based on our work and experiences and provide an excellent opportunity to public, disseminate and most importantly to exchange experiences and ideas.
The aim of the Journal is to reinforce the visibility of articles as well as that of professionals while strengthen the overall ePractice.eu activity. The Journal promotes the diffusion and exchange of good practice in eGovernment, eHealth and eInclusion and is available to all potential readers free of charge. The Journal currently has an audience of 50,000 professionals in Europe and beyond, and build on a community of some 14,000 members.
The deadline is 8 December, but I know that the editor for the eParticipation issue Jeremy Millard can be pursuaded to extent the deadline till the second half of December if asked nicely. Relevant links are provided below.
11. June 2008 – 16:24 by Danish Technological Institute
To consult the Australian public, strengthen the participatory process and outcome Kevin Rudd (Australian Prime Minister) announced in February 2008 an Australia 2020 Summit to help shape a long term strategy for the nation’s future – a strategy requiring long-term commitment and responses beyond the usual electoral cycle. In this connection more then 1000 opinion makers and citizens were invited to give their opinion and provide their input to help shape a long term strategy for the Australia’s future. More then 3600 persons and interest organisations submitted in excess of 8800 suggestions for evaluation and discussion culminating in the Australia 2020 Summit in Canberra 19-20 April this year.